Friday, January 07, 2011

At the Museum: Research and Copyright

With today’s availability of books, magazines, images, and ephemera, along with the ease of scanning, it's hard to resist the joy of research. Much of the desired information can be accessed through libraries, archives and museums but most institutions have limited staff and space. The downturn of the economy along with institutional closures, staff layoffs and the wide-ranging options available through computers and the Internet are factors influencing the future of long-term collecting, storage and access.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art now has the art collection database online and available to the public. The database is an added tool for patrons and it allows the patron to view artwork that may be in storage or inaccessible by distance.

The local history archives will be the next collection to be scanned and digitally stored, but at this time, very little has been done. While requests for copies of local history photos have increased, access to the collection remains limited. To assure someone is available to assist you with your request, please call to make an appointment in advance to view the vertical files and archival material.

For those seeking images, the following process is available: Access the museum's website at, click on Collections, then click on Rights and Reproductions. At the bottom of the page, click on Download the Image Request Form. Complete the form and fax it to the Museum.

A fee schedule is also available on the Rights and Reproductions page. The process usually takes around 6-8 weeks depending on availability and staff time. Requests for artwork, library information and archives should all be submitted using this same form.

If you have taken the time to peruse the database from the Museum's website, you will see that each image is available for viewing but is watermarked with our name embedded in the image. This watermark exists to prevent any illegal use of the image. The word "copyright" bears a heavy burden for anyone writing a book, an article, or other intellectual information to be circulated in any form.

The copyright law does not allow for anyone, including scholars, students or just interested persons, to publish the work of others without the creator's written permission even if the original creator is deceased. In many cases, the descendants of the creator own the copyright of materials. Each case is different and must be investigated.

Photography is also a medium included in the law. While the Museum owns many early Laurel photographs, we also own the copyright to those images. In recent times, decorations in local restaurants and businesses include the images of early Laurel photographs. A quick Internet search will also reveal the use of the Museum=s images on web sites and in books. The problem we are now facing includes permissions for these uses. A handful of patrons have asked for permission over the years but most have not. While we must keep stringent rules for art researchers and scholars, we require the same permission requests from local historians.

Individuals generating copies of images to sell or share with others is not allowed. Permissions and copies must be obtained from the source of copyright ownership and not from an outside source. Some other rules for use of Museum-owned imagery include the submission of an image proof, no changes in the image such as cropping or filling in by using a photo editing computer program, a submitted final copy of the published material and the appropriate fees paid by the patron. If you have specific needs for images, please complete the form and submit any special requests by accessing the form found on the Museum's website.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is open Tuesdays - Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. and on Sundays from 1-4 p.m. For specific events and programs, consult the web site at or call the Museum at 601-649-6374.

Tommie Rodgers is the registrar at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art

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